The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
That age-old adage was on display as the Cougs executed a well-rounded home performance in their 67-66 victory over Pittsburgh in Game One of the best-of-three College Basketball Invitational championship series on Monday.
WSU was without junior Brock Motum, who missed the game because of a sprained ankle suffered in the Cougs win against Oregon State. But the Cougars didn't miss a beat.
"It was a great win for our program, I sound like a broken record but I'm really proud of our guys that we are able to figure out ways to win recently," said WSU coach Ken Bone, whose team beat Pitt for the first time in school history. "It just seems like every game it's a little bit different way - on offense and defense."
The Panthers made it close down the stretch as they cut the WSU lead to only one point after Talib Zanna missed a free throw that would have tied the game.
Abe Lodwick grabbed the rebound and was fouled immediately and although he missed the front-end of a one-and-one attempt, the Cougs defense prevailed to seal up the win.
Three different Cougs finished in double figures. Lodwick led WSU with 16 points and seven rebounds, Reggie Moore chipped in 14 points and Davonte Lacy added 10 points.
"All in all, I'm just really proud of the team, I thought we were extremely tired that last six to eight minutes," Bone said. "Yet we were able to hang on and beat a team that's good, they're strong, they're athletic, they have great tradition and they weren't going to roll over and leave - they were going to fight until the end."
The series shifts to Pittsburgh for the second, and possibly third games, on Wednesday and Friday (if necessary).
The Cougars spread the wealth offensively as seven different players scored, and of those, none scored less than six points.
Senior Charlie Endquist, who replaced Motum in the starting lineup, responded by scoring nine points to go along with one rebound and two assists. Endquist said he was gassed by the end of the game, but he knows he has to be ready to bring it again on Wednesday.
"It was a little bit emotional, feels like another senior night," Endquist said. "Most championship games are one game but this is a three-game series so you can't get too emotional, you got to come back on Wednesday and be ready to play again."
WSU's defense played well in the second half especially, as they restricted to Pittsburgh to only 33 percent shooting after they shot 55 in the first half.
Marcus Capers attributed the defensive pressure to WSU's energy and communication down the stretch.
"We just made defensive adjustments,(Tray) Woodall - we didn't expect him to shoot that way in the first half," Capers said. "It was just more communication on the defensive end and we shifted a whole lot better than we did in the first half. Just more energy."
WSU shot a sizzling 63 percent from the floor in the first half, including 71 percent from the perimeter. The Cougs nailed all six of their free throw attempts, but were still down 38-35 at the break.
This was due in part to Pittsburgh's five offensive rebounds and 11 rebounds total, whereas WSU only pulled down seven rebounds through the first 20 minutes.
Pitt was also distributing the ball extremely proficiently in the first half, as they racked up 11 assists on 15 field goals, compared to only two turnovers. The Panthers also nailed seven three pointers in the first period on their way to a three-point lead.